Before I became a bona fide football fan, a development that nearly all of my friends find as disturbing as if I’d become a dog murderer, I only knew of two football people: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. I knew them because they were both Hollywood Handsome, with gleaming white teeth, and square jaws, which seems to be a minimum requirement to become an NFL quarterback. I didn’t differentiate between them other than that one was blond and the other was not, and I couldn’t tell you what teams they played for, only that they were both quarterbacks, and rich and famous.
But now that I’ve been a football fan, specifically a Seattle Seahawks football fan, I have come to loathe Tom Brady and the Patriots with an intensity I once reserved for Pavement. (They should have given the ball to Marshawn; Pete, baby, a slant pass? Why did you burn a timeout? Let us never speak of this again, etc. etc.)
But Seahawks fans are not alone in our hatred of Tom Brady, and as we arrive at yet another Super Bowl with this guy vying for a ring, it’s worth reminding ourselves what we loathe about Brady, the embodiment of the Straight White Guy Who’s Never Had to Suffer for Anything in His Life. Yeah, yeah, he wasn’t initially a starter at Michigan, he was drafted in the sixth round, please, here’s the world’s tiniest violin:
Tommy played baseball and football at Junípero Serra, an all-boys Catholic high school, and became the starting quarterback his junior year. He led his teams to decent, but not great, seasons. With his father’s help, he sent videotaped highlights to dozens of Division I colleges. A few offered scholarships, including Michigan and the nearby University of California, Berkeley. “When Tommy picked Michigan, I was devastated,” his father told me. “I had to go into counseling.” After a few days, father and son convened in the living room for a tête-à-tête. They held hands. “I was crying like a baby and said, ‘Tommy, this is going to change our relationship,’ ” he recalled. “And he said: ‘Dad, I know. It has to.’ ”
This is the only emotionally vulnerable moment in Mark Leibovich’s entire 7,400-word profile of Brady in 2015 — it’s from Brady’s dad, and it’s the tears of a family that must grapple with the fact that their son chose Michigan over Cal for a football scholarship.
Here’s a guy who, after dating a beautiful Hollywood actress, Bridget Moynahan, for two-plus years, left her for a world-renowned supermodel, so famous that she is known by a single name, Gisele. He started dating Gisele, and learned that Moynahan was pregnant with his first child, and he still bailed. Not since the Brangelina scandal had there been such a world-class jilting in American celebrity culture. Gisele, just a few years from my own age, has tortured me since I was a pre-teen, appearing on the cover of my teen magazines while I struggled through junior high with short curly hair, buck teeth, and a speech impediment resulting from hearing loss, taunting me with her perfect, straight smile, long, lean legs, and golden, beachy hair when she was a goddamn 14-year-old. As I’ve gotten older and uglier and poorer, she’s just gotten richer, more beautiful, and married to Tom Brady. My only solace is dinner at Tom and Gisele’s house sounds like bad performance art, a result of his fanatical diet (more on that later):
I asked [personal trainer Alex] Guerrero at one point if Brady is ever allowed to eat a cheeseburger. “Yes, we have treats,” he said. “We make them.” Like what? “Usually raw desserts, like raw macaroons.” Ice cream made from avocado is another favorite, Guerrero said.
“Sometimes we’ll go over to Tom and Gisele’s house for dinner,” Brady’s father told me. “And then I’ll say afterward, ‘Where are we going for dinner?’ ”
One thing I came to understand after becoming a football fan is that Tom Brady is the anti-Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers is the Every Man, he’s a better-looking guy than most of your friends, but not so intimidatingly handsome you couldn’t talk to him. Aaron Rodgers totally seems like he’d be a normal guy you can barbecue with, drink a beer with, play pool with. Guys probably like him, girls want him, he’s got a cute dog in those commercials. I forgive him when he dates hot Hollywood actresses instead of normal women he met at the grocery store, and I forgive him for things that make him seem like maybe he’s a dick, like becoming estranged from his family (maybe they’re the dicks?), or being testy with his teammates, because, even if he is a dick, he is still not Tom Brady.
Aaron Rodgers did not sport a MAGA hat in his locker, he is not a friend of Trump, he does not fly around with his personal trainer/nutritionist guru and have his own personal training philosophy, he did not allegedly get his ace backup quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo, who is, it must be said, more handsome than Brady) traded to another team, he did not sport a tacky mullet-esque haircut, he did not have to give an entire press conference about cheating with his (foot)balls, he did not hedge on whether black players kneeling during the National Anthem is cool or not (it’s cool). It is criminal that Aaron Rodgers has only has one Super Bowl ring, because on the field, Aaron Rodgers is an artist, dancing on his tiptoes around the turf with grace and beauty while throwing Hail Marys down field like heat-seeking missiles. He does so without the benefit of a great coach or a giant, oversized human being named Rob Gronkowski who catches every ball Brady throws to him with the demeanor of a Golden Labrador puppy.
Tom Brady is a technician, a robot programmed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick in some Westworld-ian backroom; he is designed to kill mediocre teams with violent precision. Belichick reserves his cruelest moments for good teams, choosing to destroy them with his bare hands, reaching right into their chest cavity and pulling out the pumping bloody heart muscle on the one-yard line (PETE, WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GIVE THE GODDAMN BALL TO MARSHAWN), just like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Belichick is Darth Vader in a hoodie, a humorless scold with a death stare more powerful than the First Order’s Starkiller Base planet destroyer. He is a football’s General Ulysses S. Grant, and has outsmarted everyone for almost two decades, using Tom Brady as his proxy for inflicting suffering on humanity.
Tom Brady, with Belichick, has five Super Bowl rings, three earned before he was 28, and is poised to have a sixth at the age of 40. When I was 27 years old I was going to raves and sleeping until noon, and I considered writing an article a week a success. He plans to keep playing until his mid-40s, when he will retire even richer, more successful, and more famous than before. I am certain I will work until I’m dead. Tom Brady won a Super Bowl his second year in the NFL and has won more Super MVP awards than any other player, including the legendary Joe Montana.
When football is outlawed by the government for causing brain damage in children in 25 or 50 years, Tom Brady will be known forever as the GOAT, a nearly irrefutable title save for the fact that the Patriots’ conference, the AFC, has been garbage during the second half of his reign, and their division is weaker than my bicep after six months of winter sloth. His wins obscure the fact that Patriots have been gifted the ability— via their weak strength of schedule—to frog march to the end of each season, emerging unscathed and unchallenged, save for a lone Steelers stand, year after year.
Tom Brady (and the Patriots) start the game, and life, on third base, with one foot already off the plate angled toward home. Brady’s seasons are a metaphor for rich white men who get the girl, the gig, the fame, the money without anything or anyone standing their way. He plays Monopoly, he passes Go, he gets $200, he doesn’t ever go to jail. Deflategate and other scandals— around his philanthropy with Best Buddies, the Patriots’ alleged cheating and stealing play calls, and pregnant, jilted girlfriends—bounce off him like a deflected pass off Richard Sherman’s fingertips. He is a human symbol of income inequality and the one percent. Tom Brady has had a disproportionate amount of success in life. He is hogging all the #winning.
It only gets worse when you look deep inside his chin dimple and realize that there’s nothing there, not even a piece of lint. He lives a life that is 101 percent football. He is 40 years old, and wants to play forever, he has a lifestyle book out inspired by his work with his controversial personal trainer, and business partner, Alex Guerrero, called The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, which advocates for some unusual practices—among them, achieving “pliability” (read: flexibility), via a “vibrating TB12 sphere,” for the low, low price of $150. (Alternately, you could just do some yoga.)
In life, he seems like he’s about as much fun as a piece of wood. He goes to bed by 8:30 or 9 p.m., works out at the crack of dawn, does a bunch of “brain exercises” before sleeping, doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee, doesn’t eat dairy, excludes tomatoes and other nightshades like peppers and eggplant from his aforementioned strict diet because they might cause inflammation (no lasagna for Tommy!) For a scream, he eats quinoa and leafy greens, and “duck every now and then.” (I’m eating truffled French fries right now, nom, nom, nom).
Tom Brady is the Gwyneth Paltrow of the NFL, TB12 is his GOOP, and the Eagles and poor, sweet, supremely average Nick Foles, the backup quarterback for the injured and immensely talented Carson Wentz, the man I had previously entrusted all my hopes and dreams to squash Tom Brady, must fight the urge on Super Bowl Sunday to not become deer caught in the headlights of Belichick’s thousand-yard stare. They must band together for God and Country and defeat Tom Brady and stop him from winning everything in life once and for all.
- The Best There Ever Was? (David Kamp, GQ, 2005)
- The Comeback: Tom Brady (Adam Rapoport, GQ, 2009)
- Strawberrygate: Why Does Tom Brady Insist He Has Never Eaten a Strawberry? (Matthew Giles, Longreads)
- Tom Brady’s Most Dangerous Game (Tom Junod and Seth Wickersham, ESPN, 2017)
- Tom Brady Talks to Chuck Klosterman About Deflategate (Sort Of) (GQ 2015)
Tricia Romano is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle paper, The Stranger; previously, she has been a staff writer for the Seattle Times. She has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, and the Village Voice, where she was a columnist.